Frank Sperling

Lady in Red

The setting could not have been better this Friday early evening when he and his brother Alonso entered „La Trattoria Cuccina“. It was his no.1 restaurant choice in Bucharest, not only because of its famous pasta and pizza, but also because towards the end of a sunny day, the orange-goldish colors of the walls and ceilings in the restaurant matched so perfectly well with the setting of the sun. And when sitting in the Trattoria’s large open patio in Calea Decchea, one could enjoy perfectly well the after business hours over drinks and dinner until the sun was really down. The temperatures were more than bearable – really pleasant with just below 30 centigrades during noon time and before 8pm they would have cooled down to mid-twenties. A warm, gentle breeze was merely touching the leaves of every tree in the Trattoria’s patio and made them slightly move, one should just close ones eyes and listen to the music of the winds for a moment or two.

Every Friday night there was a band playing too, sometimes jazz, sometimes latin and at other times just oldies. He liked it best when they played oldies and if his mood was right, he would sometimes cheerfully accompany the songs by just joining in and humming the tunes or by closing his eyes and starting to relax and let the music touch his soul.

There was a feeling in the air that today would become a special day, indeed a very special day, he noticed it the moment when they got in and on top of the perfect weather the fact that the band had already started to play oldies tonight was just another indicator for it. Yet, when he made a remark to his brother, Alonso just shrugged his shoulders – he was mentally still too much drawn on closing this large business transaction for a cross border merger on which they had been working now for months. He found it very pleasant that this transaction gave them the regularly recurring opportunity of coming back to Romania on and off for – he calculated a moment – about 4 and a half months today. And they were really close to close the deal. But business was business and unlike his brother he had this enviable talent to just load off all work related chores once the office door was shut.

They were seated at their table – when they made bookings he always made sure that they got the table in the left hand corner – and it all of a sudden flashed to him why this day would become so special: on the table adjacent to them was this Romanian couple – he guessed they must have been in their mid thirties – both dressed in business attire, he still wore his sunglasses, but she was all dressed in red, bright red. Alonso did not seem to notice or at least not to care, but he could not stop throwing glances at her every now and then. Her hair was all open and curly, dark brown of color, she also had a very appealing bronze teint, but her eyes were the most remarkable, and he had only seen this color in Romania before: she had this light brown hazelnut eyes, with a slight tone of honey and lemon in the iris. Gosh, how he loved it and he could not stop glancing at her. She seemed to have noticed him too, for she looked back every now and then and when their eyes met, he felt the butterflies flying in his tummy and her look made his legs and knees go weak and soft and his heart go pounding like a sledge hammer – at least it felt that way.

In his small talk to Alonso he tried to gesture towards her, but he did not want to look awkward and Alonso just would not want to pick up on it. Even better so, now he could keep all the looks for himself and bathe in them.

After a wonderful Carpacchio was served as a starter his today’s main course was thin Angel pasta with a sauce of champagne and gorgonzola cheese. Eugene, the owner and Chef of the Trattoria was also known for importing fine Italian wines and today’s recommendation from the Chef himself – a 1999 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie – was a perfect choice. The wine was decently cooled down and always served at 12 centigrades, refreshing and tasty.

The Lady in Red and her companion did not appear to be in romance, that little small talk between them might have even suggested they were just colleagues. He knew it was silly, but in his mind he was doing his maths for calculating his chances …

Then something odd happened: for the first time in all those months, Alonso asked to excuse himself, he would just want to run some errands before shops in the nearby shopping mall closed at ten and he would certainly not mind to indulge in the wine and the restaurant’s atmosphere himself alone, anyway, it would probably not last any longer than 15 minutes and certainly no more than 20-25.

He apologized his brother and coincidentally, the man on table next to them stood up almost same minute and did also apologize to the Lady in Red. This left the two of them alone, all of a sudden, and the surprise nearly made his heart beat stop - what felt like more than a minute to him, was probably just missing out one systolic pumping of blood from the heart chamber into his veins. She had now turned her face towards him and he got all excited about it. He felt that he must have blushed, cold and heat coming over him all at the same time and his entire body paralysed - a feeling which he only knew too well. He had enjoyed listening to the music all evening long, but now he could hardly hear a thing – but he was all too familiar with this song which just came up, one of his favourites. The band replayed “The Eagles” most popular song “Hotel California”.
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night”
He thought that he must be dreaming when suddenly The Lady in Red stood up from her chair and moved over to the dance square – this look was an invitation now, was it not? A clear attempt to bond with him, now, no doubt. He could no longer resist and had no control over himself, neither physically nor emotionally, when some kind of magnetic force dragged him into her arms to hold her tight and let their bodies synchronize with the melody of this mesmerizing song. He had his eyes closed and did not dare to look at her, but he did feel that whatever movement his body would make, she would smoothly follow and let him lead the direction. It was as if their bodies were actually melting into one when slowly turning and bending and he could feel her all over, from tip to toe, with every pore he literally breathed her in.
“There she stood in the doorway; I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,'This could be Heaven or this could be Hell'
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say...
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place), Such a lovely face”
- oh, he could not believe it, what would Alonso say if he returned and saw his brother in this goddess’s arms?
She was so so beautiful, he so much wished that these 6 minutes would last forever, maybe the band saw her and him and if they were happy for this gorgeous couple, maybe they just would not stop to play. Now, was this her heartbeat he could feel? Geeeee, she did have a talent to press her body tight towards his without being too intrusive.
Hell, this was not hell, this was all heaven, he was obsessed, he was addicted and the music only made it worse:
“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Benz
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”
Aaahh, this was a dance to remember, by all means, how could he ever forget, but, even better, it wasn’t over yet, it was still there, he was still there, he knew it would go on, he enjoyed every minute, every second of this dance. Carpe diem he thought and turned his whole life into living for this very moment which seemed to stretch and turn into eternity. He was all in trance, he could not believe it, in all those years it had always seemed impossible, and yet, there he dances, there he moves his body to and fro in unison with the universe as it felt to him.
“Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
'Relax,' said the night man, 'We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!'”
– no way, he was not going to leave for sure, why should he? This was heaven, there was no better place to be, there was no better woman to be with, there was no better music to listen to – all was perfect, too perfect.

The lead guitars were still clinking in his ears when he felt a slight touch on his shoulder and opened his eyes again. To his complete astonishment he saw his brother Alonso talking to him, telling him that the bill had already been settled, and that he must have dosed off while Alonso was out.
Still puzzled it took a few moments to adapt back to reality when Alonso gently pushed him out of “La Trattoria Cuccina”. Tears filled his eyes, in his wheelchair he turned back one more time, only to see that The Lady in Red was no longer there ….


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Frank Sperling.
Published on on 09/19/2008.


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